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Workplace Violence Essay, Research Paper
MANAGING VIOLENCE IN THE WORKPLACE
There are more than 17 people murdered at work each week with nearly 2 million victims annually. Homicide is the number one cause of work related death for women and the number two cause of death for men. (McGovern)
In most work related incidents, crimes are committed against someone the perpetrator knows. Perpetrators also tend to fall into several categories and have some characteristics in common. Typically there are situational settings that trigger people to commit these shocking crimes. For instance, the increased use of part time and temporary workers, management turnover and change, and major schedule changes. (Cauldron)
Workplace violence assaults result in about 1.7 million lost workdays and 55 million in loss of wages for employees each year (Green). Workplace violence not only affects the employees, it also affects employers. Business and industry pay an excessive amount of money each year in costly litigations, lost productivity, and damage control. (Mattman) Businesses can prevent these actions from occurring by taking precautionary measures. Businesses should consider limiting access to the workplace, enhancing lighting and visibility, training employees and installing security devices. (Peltin) The aim is to have an effective immediate response that controls and diffuses the situation and reduces the risk of long term psychological harm for employees at all levels (Safetyline).
Statement of Problem
Workplace violence is affecting business both financially and emotionally. Businesses are liable for crimes committed while at work and employees may be physically harmed or emotionally scarred by these violent crimes.
Facts and Findings
Workplace violence occurs more frequently than most realize. It can include any thing from verbal threats to homicide. A 1993 study by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company estimates that every year 2.2 million workers are physically attacked. Another 6.3 million workers are threatened and 16.1 million workers are harassed. (Friend) Some severe examples of workplace violence that have been documented are as follows: In 1998, a former hospital maintenance worker stabbed a human resources director to death with a hunting knife. In 1993, a former manager, who had been fired 10 months earlier for misconduct, shot a manager. In 1992, a former employee who had been fired for habitual tardiness and absences killed a human resources specialist. (Cauldron)
Characteristics of Perpetrators
In most cases of workplace violence, perpetrators tend to commit crimes against people they know. Perpetrators usually fall into four categories: current or former employees, assailants with personal relations with the victim, customers or clients, and strangers only entering to commit crimes. (Peltin) Previous perpetrators of work related violence have many characteristics in common. Some commonalities include: a migratory job history, externalizes blame, identifies with violence, more than a casual use of drugs or alcohol, and has an interest in firearms. (Mattman)
Workplace violence is often associated with workplace change. There are several situations that can trigger violence. Bringing in outside employees, such as part time and temporary workers, the hiring of new managers, and major schedule changes are a few examples. (Cauldron) Heavy workloads, poor communication, job insecurity, lack of opportunity for promotion, and when workers skills are not utilized are other stressful situations that can lead to violence. (Sutcliffe)
The financial consequences associated with workplace violence are a top priority of managers. Managers are concentrating on the most affected areas of the business. One is the cost of litigations. Research by the Workplace Violence Research Institute revealed that multiple lawsuits were filed against the employer in each case where the act resulted in death or injuries (Mattman) . Negligent hiring and negligent retention cause these litigations. The exact accurate costs of cases are unknown because many cases settle out of court. However, on December 3, 1993, 4.25 million dollars was rewarded to a postal employee shot by a co-worker in Dearbourn, Michigan (Mattman). The second most affected area of a business is lost productivity. Lost productivity after an incident has occurred is misjudged. Losses in productivity occur throughout the enterprise with decreases of up to 80 percent for up to two weeks immediately after the incident (Mattman). These productivity losses are a result of the bereavement of the worker, work interruptions caused by police investigating the crime scene and damage to the building. Other causes of declining productivity include, the employees time off trying to cope with the aftermath and employees having post traumatic stress syndrome , causing a lack of motivation. (Mattman). Damage control is the third affected area. The companies reputation will flounder due to the publicity these violent incidents produce. Gossip among the customers may influence buying decisions and cause revenue to decrease.
Even though workplace violence may be difficult to predict, managers must take steps to limit the risk. Taking security precautions, such as limiting access, enhancing lighting and visibility and installing alarms and closed circuit cameras are important. (Peltin) These precautions can detour outside predators from entering a workplace. Screening applicants is another means of limiting risks. Applications should be examined thoroughly and all past employers and references should be contacted. (Peltin) Adopting a zero tolerance policy that states that threats and violence in any form will not be tolerated, is a must. Nothing should go ignored and employers must investigate all reports promptly. Training employees how to detect and respond to warning signs are major steps in preventing violence. (Davis) Implementing such strategies and training to deal with violence in the workplace has had a great impact. Fatalities over all have dropped in the past seven years according to the annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 6,026 occupational fatalities logged in 1998 was a three percent drop from the previous year (Nash).
Discussion and Analysis
Workplace violence is a chief problem that has to be dealt with immediately. Employees and companies are being hurt due to these events. Taking precautions by installing security devices, writing zero tolerance policies, and implementing training programs are the first steps in reducing the risk of workplace violence.
Based on the facts and findings of violence in the workplace, the following conclusions are drawn:
1. Employers must recognize that the threat of workplace violence is everywhere.
2. Workplace violence can be any thing from offensive language to homicide.
3. Most perpetrators fit into four categories and all have common characteristics.
4. Although many violent acts appear randomly, there are steps companies can take to prevent violence from occurring.
5. Utilizing precautions and strategies reduces the risk of workplace violence.
Supported by the facts and findings of this study, the following recommendations are offered in an effort to manage workplace violence.
1. Install the highest level of security devices in your workplace.
2. Ensure that your background checks of perspective employees are thorough.
3. Emphasize a zero tolerance policy that violence in any form will not be tolerated.
4. Develop policies for the proper hiring, training, and discipline of employees with an emphasis on violence prevention.
5. Educate employees on workplace awareness, warning signs, and prevention.
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